It was a tale of two games, wrapped into one.
Early, the Pittsburgh Penguins jumped out to a great lead. Craig Adams scored short-handed, followed by Chris Kunitz tipping a Matt Niskanen shot on the power play. Then the second line worked magic with Jussi Jokinen tipping the puck to James Neal for a quick shot. Just like that it was 3-0 Penguins.
But then, they took their foot off the gas. They stopped skating as hard. Started taking penalties as a result. Bled shots against. Boone Jenner scored on the power play to make it 3-1. Ryan Johansen would make it 3-2 on a 5-on-3 Blue Jackets PP.
But still, Pittsburgh held tight. Even carried a lead into the final minute. Then Marc-Andre Fleury made a terrible decision to play the puck behind his net wrapped in. Despite the bad ice, or the fact that Columbus had pulled their goalie and would be forechecking hard. So even if he stopped the puck, Fleury would still be out of the net and isn't known for being a very good puck mover. What he was thinking, who knows.
But the puck never quite made it to his stick, catching a funny bounce. Suddenly not only was Fleury out of his crease, the Pens didn't have the puck. Tie game.
Overtime saw Columbus outshoot Pittsburgh 5-1, including a long wrist shot that an NHL goalie just has to make a save on. Fleury didn't. Tie series.
- It's a shame because Fleury finished with 42 saves on 46 shots, and before the final minute of regulation was probably the best and most consistent Penguin. Still, make one mistake in the wrong moment and it ruins the whole thing. That was the case here.
- Score effects happen but taking 8 minutes in penalties in the second period and getting outshot 18-6 in the period is inexcusable.
- Penguins not named Sidney Crosby: 13 faceoff wins, 30 faceoff losses. Just unacceptable.
A lot more to say and a few days to do it. The Penguins had a golden chance to wrap this game up and let it slip through their fingers. What could have been a 3-1 series lead is now suddenly a best of three. Lots of things have to be better, or it won't end pretty.